Beyond the poker tables, celebrity-chef restaurants, and flashy nightclubs is a side of Las Vegas that people often overlook. A growing number of intriguing attractions related to the city’s rich and eccentric past lure visitors off the famous 4-mile Strip to the downtown area, which has become an attraction in and of itself. Even as the city serves up world-class entertainment, visitors interested in history and culture are sure to find something to satisfy that artistic itch.
Known locally as the “neon boneyard,” this is where discarded neon signage rests in peace. Luckily, the signs’ glory lives on at the Neon Museum, a non-profit organization that preserves these unique pieces of the city’s history. Visitors are welcome to tour the boneyard, which houses everything from early signage from local drycleaners and eateries to iconic imagery from imploded casinos. Though a bit under the radar, the Neon Museum has become increasingly popular in recent years, and advance tour reservations are recommended.
Officially named the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, this downtown museum masterfully presents Las Vegas’ ties to the Mob through interactive exhibits and artifacts related directly to the likes of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Al Capone, Charlie “Lucky” Luciano, and other colorful characters. Housed in the former federal courthouse where the Kefauver Committee Hearings took place, the Mob Museum also offers a stellar overview of organized crime around the world.
Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art
From Andy Warhol to Pablo Picasso, the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art has featured some of the world’s most famous artists in its intimate showroom. Approximately every eight months, a new, specifically focused, and expertly curated exhibit — either based on a particular artist or a theme — moves into the space. Take advantage of the audio tour that greatly enhances the gallery experience.
Cirque du Soleil
A visit to Las Vegas isn’t complete without seeing a show. Travelers have ample choices when it comes to choosing live entertainment, but Cirque du Soleil has cornered the market for innovative, artistic, and engaging stage shows. With seven shows to choose from, there really is something for everyone. Beatles LOVE and Michael Jackson ONE pay homage to some of the world’s most beloved musicians, while O is an underwater spectacle, and the adult-themed Zumanity toys with the sensual side.
Smith Center for the Performing Arts
Get off the Strip to catch a show at the stunning Smith Center located in downtown Las Vegas. The 5-acre performing arts center consists of three theaters and dozens of performances every year, including those from the Las Vegas Philharmonic and Nevada Ballet Theatre. One of the Smith Center’s highlights is its Broadway Series, which features the hottest touring shows. For something more intimate, catch a performance in Myron’s Cabaret Jazz, a 240-seat venue.
18b Arts District
This 18-block zone located downtown is a hub for local artistic talent. Within the 18b Arts District, there are dozens of local galleries, bars, cafes, showrooms, and boutiques selling retro clothing, vintage furniture, antiques, music, and more. Live music, food trucks, and street performances offer an additional dimension to this area during the city’s First Friday events.
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